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The slick Motorola MBP853 Connect ($250, though available for $200 online) gives parents the best of both worlds: the assured piece of mind of a dedicated handheld monitor and the convenience of mobile Wi-Fi streaming that’s on par with high-end consumer wireless security cameras, such as Nest Cam. Although this baby monitor is priced on the high side, it’s well worth it.
At 4.5 inches high and wide, the MBP853 offers the same shape of other baby monitors in its class, with the antenna and temperature sensor tucked in the back. The unit has a dedicated on/off switch — something you won’t find in a lot of competing products — and a blinking blue indicator light that is only visible upon close inspection.
Another key difference between the MBP853 and other units: its infrared night vision does not illuminate any visible red lights (a feature that proved to be distracting for my child). The speaker in front is smartly placed for maximum sound quality so you don’t sound muffled to your crying kid.
The MBP853’s handheld viewer very much resembles that of an old T-Mobile Sidekick, with kind of an oval-rectangular shape and four front-facing buttons lining each side of the main 3.5-inch LCD screen. These are used primarily for navigating the menu that controls all of your tones, alerts and other settings, but it’s tricky to use the four directional buttons all stacked atop each other vertically.
The viewer weighs 6.3 ounces, and it has a slippery handfeel. The kickstand in the back has a thin footprint and is prone to falling askew on soft surfaces.
Camera Range: 300-degree pan
Handheld Monitor: Yes
Mobile App: Android, iOS
Temperature Sensor: Yes
Humidity Sensor: Yes
Handheld Viewer Size: 5 x 3.25 x 0.75 inches
Weight: 6.3 ounces
Video Recording: Yes
This Motorola monitor has a lot of the features you’d expect and want from a higher-end device, including a temperature sensor, Wi-Fi connectivity, HD-quality streaming, two-way talk and easy customization of push alerts. You’ll want to access these feature through the mobile app whenever possible.
However, in order to check on your little one from your phone, you’ll need to use a third-party app called Hubble (available for Android and iOS), which adds a few extra steps to the process. Hubble connects your Motorola video camera to your home Wi-Fi network for mobile streaming that’s a significant upgrade over the standalone handheld viewer.
It’s relatively easy to create your account through the app — it only takes about a couple minutes all together — and the mobile notifications (for sound, motion, and temperature) come through at whatever level you desire. It’s much easier to push-to-talk and adjust your basic alerts through the app rather than the handheld viewer.
Hubble’s website lets you access your live video stream easily enough. The web interface is much better suited to adjusting your notifications, turning on lullaby music, setting high- and low-temperature alerts, and so forth. In fact it’s actually easier to do all this via the web rather than the dedicated viewer or the app, since everything is lumped here into one horizontal sub-menu.
The Hubble app will record screenshots triggered by motion and/or sound, but with a subscription from Hubble, it will save the actual video snippets in their cloud storage for later viewing. The three-tier plan will cost you $3 (last 24 hours of video), $10 (7 days) or $30 a month (30 days).
The range of the MBP853 compares well to the other units we tested, save for the 360-degree-panning iBaby. It’s noticeably easier to adjust camera angles by flicking your finger in the Hubble app than having to mash weirdly placed directional arrows on the Motorola handheld viewer.
The screen quality of the MBP853’s viewer is adequate: night vision had a slightly foggy view but nothing that kept me from checking in on my child. The onscreen graphics (signal strength, temperature, battery life) could be very hard to see in night mode, with the dark royal blue type, but overall, it’s a perfectly satisfactory handheld viewer.
Some users have reported connectivity issues in reviews posted to online shopping sites. But I never experienced any major problems during the weeks I used the MBP853.
The mobile app is what you want to use with this baby monitor. Using the Hubble mobile app to view a live stream from the MBP853, I found my screen quality to be perfect at times and choppy at others, with some pixelation and stuttering. Things were more problematic watching the feed through the Hubble website, where the picture often was choppy and lagged by 5 seconds or more.
Motorola’s viewer turns on and off faster than any other unit tested, taking about a second from button press to activate the screen activation. The sleep timer is set to five minutes by default every time you turn it on, so the 7-plus hours we got from continuous testing can easily be stretched to the better part of a day.
Motorola has created a baby video monitor that hits parents in the sweet spot, both those who want a standalone viewer and those who crave the convenience and feature-rich functionality of an app they can run on their phone, although the iBaby we tested provides a more seamless and enjoyable mobile experience through its native app. Without an online discount the price of the MBP853 is on the high side (especially when you throw in a video-recording subscription plan), but overall you’re getting a very good value in return.
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Erik Malinowski is an author, features writer and editor who has contributed to numerous publications, including Wired, Rolling Stone, Slate, Bleacher Report, BuzzFeed, Atlas Obscura, Baseball Prospectus, and more. He has also been recognized in three editions of the Best American Sports Writing anthology and has written a book on the rise of the Golden State Warriors.